Aston Martin Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel said he was wondering “who’s next?” after seeing Max Verstappen suffer the Azerbaijan Grand Prix’s second tyre blowout.
Vettel’s team-mate Lance Stroll and Red Bull driver Verstappen both had high-speed crashes in Baku after tyre failures on the start-finish straight while deep into stints on the hard tyres.
Stroll’s came towards the end of his first and happened just as he exited the fast sweeps while Verstappen’s was at even higher speed, as he was about to cross the start-finish line with just over five laps to go.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said Verstappen’s tyres were in good enough condition to “easily” make it to the finish and Pirelli claims its early analysis has identified debris as the likely cause.
Vettel, who said he was not worried about suffering the same fate because he had run a long first stint and had much newer tyres than everyone else, initially thought Stroll had hit the wall exiting the final sweeps.
“I couldn’t explain why he would crash so late in the straight,” said Vettel. “It was strange.
“Obviously I was on the safer side because my tyres were fresher than everyone else’s but when Max had the same issue, it was quite clear that… who’s next? That sort of thing.
“I don’t know why but this is not supposed to happen so I think there needs to be a bit of an investigation because it’s probably the worst place of the year you want to have this.
“It could go massively wrong if you get it wrong so close to pit entry, to the wall there. We are doing well over 300kph.
“I was a bit concerned but then with the red flag then I knew we’re all fitting different tyres and it should be fine.
“I knew it happened around after 30-odd laps because Lance started on the hard tyres and it happened around then, and then when Max pitted [to put his hard tyres on] it was the same sort of amount of laps.
“A strange one – but I wasn’t overly concerned because I knew also I would probably be last on the list.”
Pirelli has gathered remains of the tyres to conduct a thorough investigation, but the company’s F1 boss Mario Isola has already excluded the possibility of either failure being caused by wear.
This is for several reasons, including the lack of warning before a sudden loss of pressure, the fact there was still adequate tread in the remains of both tyres, others running longer on sets of hards and that cuts were discovered in other tyres, including Hamilton’s rear-left from the second stint.
Race winner Sergio Perez, who inherited the lead when team-mate Verstappen crashed, echoed Vettel’s sentiment about the importance of understanding what happened.
“At that point of the race, of the red flag, the information that we get is very limited so you don’t want to go into much detail because anyway you’re putting on a new set of tyres,” said Perez.
“It’s something that we have to investigate because the speed, getting a failure there, it’s something pretty extreme.
“Luckily, nothing happened. But it’s something that has to be reviewed.”
Pirelli’s tyres were tweaked for this season to prevent tyres from failing under heavy stress, like at Silverstone last year when a spate of late failures occurred in the British Grand Prix.
The integrity of the Pirelli tyres has been a question mark at various points through its history as F1’s sole supplier.
Though drivers were mostly reluctant to comment after the race, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo admitted it was “not the most comforting feeling” seeing those crashes and said he hopes there are “adjustments” once the cause is known.
Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr said: “We haven’t had an issue all weekend and we were definitely surprised to see two cars crashing out in that manner.”